- 21/06/11 - The Value of Vocational Learning
Yesterday Strode College in Street added its voice to others from across the country calling us to recognise the value of vocational qualifications. The call came as part of a campaign to raise awareness of these nationally recognised qualifications which focus on teaching practical skills and knowledge for a particular line of work or a specific job role.
Vocational qualifications can give people a head start in a career or prepare them for further vocational study or university. Strode offers a range of courses including Diplomas, BTECs NVQs and Apprenticeships in a wide range of subjects: art and design, business and IT, child, health and social care, engineering, hair and beauty, hospitality and catering, music, performing arts and media, public services and sport.
James Staniforth, Principal of Strode College, said: "We take great pride in the success of our students who study vocational courses, as we do in the achievements of our AS and A level students. Young people need to be given a range of opportunities to succeed and to reach their potential and this means offering high quality practical and vocational courses alongside academic study.
"Vocational learning has a significant role to play in making sure our young people have the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in employment and education. Last year over 500 students successfully completed a full-time vocational course at Strode, with 314 going on to further study, 146 gaining employment and others taking a gap year. Large numbers of our BTEC level 3 students achieved a triple distinction for their course which is the highest set of grades possible and equivalent to three A levels at grade A."
The majority of vocational students go to Strode College after school and are aged 16-19, but Scott McDonald who lives in Glastonbury with his partner and their two year old son is 24. He is a great example of how vocational learning can lead to success in education and improve employment prospects. His story also shows how the vocational route can better meet the needs of someone who does not choose to go down the more traditional route of academic study.
Scott joined the Navy at 17 having left school without many qualifications or much interest in studying. He worked in the kitchens and enjoyed his time in the Navy until he was discharged for medical reasons. Scott said: "I wasn't mature enough to do well at school, but my time in the navy helped me to become more responsible and to develop a better attitude. Having a young family has also helped me focus on the future and what I want to achieve for myself and for them."
Scott moved to the area three years ago to be nearer his partner's family. He continued working as a chef but found he was losing enthusiasm for the job while his interest in IT was growing. He said: "IT was a hobby at first and something I was good at. I enjoyed fixing computers for family and friends and decided to try for a career as an IT technician. So I enrolled at Strode College for the level 3 Extended Diploma IT Practitioners course. I've just finished the course and I'm really pleased because I got a triple distinction.
"The course gave me an excellent grounding in all the main technical areas of IT work and it also opened up more options for my future. I've decided to go into software development instead of technical support and my real passion is in developing Apps for mobile phones. I've recently produced an Android phone App for Strode College which provides useful information for students such as important contact numbers, term dates, timetables, maps and so on, and I'm hoping to get more work with other colleges and schools.
"Doing the course at Strode means I can now go on to take a further vocational course - a HND in software development - and I may then do a further year to get a degree. I'll be working part-time in the kitchen at Morrisons at the same time, and my partner works part-time too. I've got a grant for £2,000 towards my next course and I'm also taking out a student loan. Sometimes it feels like a juggling act but I know it's worth it, because as my skills and knowledge grow so will my future prospects."
For information about vocational courses at Strode and for advice about education and employment options for the future, call 01458 844444 or visit: www.strode-college.ac.uk
To download the Strode College App, developed by Scott McDonald, visit the Android Market.
Photo: Scott McDonald at home with his family; studying a vocational IT course at Strode College has set him on a clear path to future success.